9/11

It is fifteen years later. The memory remains fresh in my thoughts.

This morning, my wife, grandson and I walked amongst the 3000 flags which adorned Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda as a moving memorial to those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

As we walked among the closely spaced flags flapping in the wind blowing across the Niagara River, I tried to picture not a flag but the individual for whom each flag had been placed. Despite the large number of people seeing this memorial, when I stood silently and closed my eyes, I felt utterly alone much as I am sure those who perished on that day also felt knowing they would never see their loved ones again. in the place occupied today by a flag, this symbol of freedom which is iconic in this country. Tears trickled down my cheek, hidden behind sunglasses.

Never forget is a statement which we heard with frequency, every year on this terrible anniversary. We hear this phrase with less frequency today, especially as the years continue to roll forward. I have been given a gift over these last fifteen years. This gift of life is one which I have learned to cherish and make the most of every day. I ask a question daily of myself, especially on those days when I am struggling to remember this gift. The question is “What good can I do this day?” I think this is a good question for all of us to ask.

Never forget!

Namaste.

 

The Power of Gratitude & Introspection

With hands grasped in gratitude, I greet you on this beautiful day.

It’s Labor Day weekend and I am happy to be enjoying an extra free day off this weekend. As I sat, my soul warmed with another cup of coffee and my Kindle, my mind began, as it often does to wander. I began to think about writing. It has been three months since my last post and almost three months since I have worked on my book.

It has also been almost three months since my last consistent run. This “streak” was interrupted just once by an attempt to test my knee. This “test” failed miserably and caused additional pain. I have had x-rays completed but the physician refused to discuss them with me when she believed this injury had been caused at work. This despite the numerous pages of information which I completed explaining the injury took place as a result of running. I find this to be an indictment of the current state of our medical profession and one, which within my own practice I work terribly hard to avoid. Regardless, I will reschedule with another physician and secure an accurate diagnosis.

Each week which goes by offers me increasing hope as the pain and discomfort in my knee continues to decrease. For this, I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

This is one of my favorite places to write. The tailgate on my Honda Element drops at just the right height to work as a desk. On it sits a cup of coffee and my laptop.

Gratwick Park

I was frightened by the notion that I did not miss running, especially those runs which allowed me to start my day with some modicum of balance.

I have been reflecting on the last year and in some cases wish I could call a mulligan and have remained at the job which I had prior to the start of the last year. Since this is not a possibility, I have reflected on what I have learned in this last year.

Not to be cliché but I have learned the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have also learned it is not a bad thing to be happy with the status quo, to not wish for more, of anything but to be happy or to find happiness in what I already have.

I was reminded balance can be found in such things, that to not see the balance which I already have and to seek something for which the definition is unclear causes one to experience more imbalance in my life. I stepped from the frying pan into the fire. I saw my physical health be called into question and I saw my love for running also being called into question. It culminated in me experiencing a panic attack while out for a very early run. The panic attack saw me sitting by the side of the road in tears with passersby wondering what was going on for me at 4:30 AM. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and began a course of medication to help me manage these symptoms. I began the search for alternate employment. Finally, this goal was reached but emotionally I still felt empty; like a ship bobbing on the waves in the open ocean sails flapping loosely in the breeze with not enough force to provide the energy necessary to move forward. My meditation practice faltered and finally halted and also became nonexistent. I had hung my hat on one decision, one belief, that a new place of employment would provide all the stress relief which I would need. This solved a small portion of my problem, the remainder lied in my belief that there was nothing else to question. Depression set in followed by anhedonia and a general feeling of malaise. I continued to run but even these were forced. The love which I had previously had for waking early in the morning now became a chore instead of a salvation. I still enjoyed the solitude I felt but I also felt myself withdrawing into myself; feeling sorry for myself. Everything became a chore. I functioned on autopilot and left unchecked ends up causing an accident. This “accident” was my knee injury. Even my journaling which provided as much solace as did my daily runs and something with which I found respite, waned and became almost nonexistent. Daily writing had fallen off to one or two days each week, then one day each week. There were weeks where I was lucky if I even inked a fountain pen let alone knew the whereabouts of my journal. I retreated more and more into my head and found reading to be my one remaining constant.

Slowly but surely my energy has begun to return. I am not fully there but I feel my hope, my desire to return to enjoying the run beginning to increase. It was at first difficult for me to accept the fact that I could not run and when I see others out for a run, I am reminded of my inability to run. This summer, one of our warmest on record and a time of year I look forward to running as it affords me the ability to run in only shorts and running shoes caused additional strain on my mood. Alas, it is what it is.

My own diagnosis is one which places a possible return to running around the turn of the year. Hopefully, with the advice of a doctor and the possibility of physical therapy I can at least comfortably return to some form of physical activity which will help ease my depression.

As I said in an earlier post, one of the greatest abilities we have, if we choose to accept it is our ability to be introspective. I am thankful I have this ability and even more thankful I use it or should I say I have begun to return to its use. I still rise early enough to see darkness blanket the sky. As I sit and either read or write at this hour, I am comforted knowing another day is dawning and I have been blessed to see another day.

Namaste

Stop Bitching! Part II

I greet this day with hands clasped together in gratitude. Today I am grateful today for many things. They are truly too numerous to mention and this post isn’t about what I’m grateful for, it’s about you recognizing what you’re grateful for in your life.

I have been thinking a lot about what I have been hearing on the news lately. I am not going to get into those issues as they are far too large for me to deal with and I am not interested in starting what would ultimately be a partisan conflict that would not have an end in sight. Everyone today feels they know the answers. I am not alone in the world of opinions and I am not one of the individuals who feels as though they know everything. I do, like everyone else have an opinion and if you know the saying about opinions you will again understand why I won’t go there. If you don’t know the saying about opinions, here it is: “Opinions are like assholes…everyone’s got one.”

What I will get into is a take off from my post one month earlier and that has to do with the bitching and complaining I hear every day, mostly from those who will not take even one step in the direction of looking at their behavior which has resulted in both direct and indirect decision. Those same individuals are the one who refuse to believe they have any ability to make changes in their life and instead blame others. I almost got into the whole black lives matter, blue lives matter, etc., etc., etc. I also run into those individuals who ask for help, direction, etc. and still refuse to take the steps they need. We live in a culture where bitching, complaining, whining, etc. is accepted if not encouraged. If you didn’t before understand the wild success of platforms such as Facebook, you do now!

I have been in a little bit of a funk recently. I hurt my knee and running without pain and the concern about doing further damage has helped me to make a decision which I believe is in my best interest. I don’t like the decision and I want to get back to running…without pain and the fear of doing more damage. Therefore I made the decision, without bitching and complaining that best works for me. One of the questions I ask is “When did it become ok to not make a decision and to just sit back and complain?” This isn’t for me to anser…yet. I will go there in the book on which I am working but this is a question which each of us needs to answer for ourselves.

The decision not to run was a relatively difficult one to make as we are in the middle of my favorite time of year. For me, there is not much which rivals getting up at 4 AM, putting on a pair of shorts and running shoes, setting my watch and heading out the door for a run. There is no knit hat, no gloves, no tights, jacket etc. On the other hand, for the reasons which I mentioned, this was also an easy one to make.

I have used my meditation practice to be mindful of the fact that I have choices in my life. I feel sad for those individuals who refuse to believe they have choices. We all have choices. They may not seem like good choices, but they are choices nonetheless. I feel sad for those individuals who thumb their nose at interventions such as counseling and instead take the easy way out…medication. Medication can be a remarkable tool to help decrease some of the symptoms we experience, but they are in no way an answer in and of themselves. We are afraid to “go into counseling.” We believe if we “go into counseling we will “get the answers” to our problems. The answers to our problems are within us and we should be using counseling as a type of sounding board but not for the answers. I have patients who do see me looking for answers and when they feel they are “not getting help” because “counseling doesn’t work” are the same ones who leave counseling complaining.

Look within yourself. The answers, despite your belief they are not, are inside you. Ask for help. Ask for direction, just don’t ask to be given the answers. This is a powerful part of the counseling transformation and believe it or not can be a fun part of seeking therapy.

Namaste.

Stop bitching!!!

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude.
Stop bitching!!!! Stop complaining!!!! Stop whining!!!! I mean seriously! Other than a simple, easy way to vent, does it really help?
Right about now your screaming at your screen telling me to shut up. Maybe you’re even telling me that I don’t know how difficult your life is, what kind of stressors your dealing with in your life, etc. Honestly it doesn’t matter. We all  have stressors in our lives. Sure, some are more difficult to manage than others while others may even seem insurmountable, but honestly bitching about how bad your life is and how no one ever understands you is a waste of valuable time and energy.
Bitching is reactive. If you believe you have the right to bitch and bitching is helpful, please do not read further. If you’d like to make an attempt at being more proactive in your response, please continue to read on.
These are just a few simple steps which I take because I can find myself in the same scenario and if the conditions are right, I can  find myself falling off the wagon and bitching.
The first step which I take is to stop using words like “can’t” and phrases like “I can’t.” If you believe you “can’t” you are correct and again you should not read further. This phrase drives me nuts and if in a conversation with someone who continues to use it, I will walk away. I run for fun and exercise and am often asked how  far I run. I plan on 4-5 7-mile runs each week. I am also often asked where I find the time to rise at 4AM to run and I respond, “I don’t find the time; I make the time.” Then I hear, “I can’t do that…” which is followed by a number of excuses. The bottom line is if you truly want to do something, get up and do it. If you can’t because there is a true impediment to accomplishing this task, ask for help. If the person or persons you have asked for help are not helpful, ask someone else. Many symptoms of “anxiety” and “depression” result from our refusal to make sometimes difficult decisions right now which will impact us positively in the future. We are afraid to make a decision, afraid to fail, afraid to make a wrong decision.
The second step I take is to assess the control I have over whatever the stressor is. We have more control over a great deal of our life than we believe we do. I’m not talking about the ultimate control which results in stopping a situation from happening but perhaps there is enough control to impact the outcome. Again, I introduce the word “can’t” and the phrase “I can’t.”
The third step is to assess what help and  resources you need. Is this something simple? “I feel anxious when I watch the news.” Stop watching the news or in the advent of 24-hour news, stop watching as a story is repeated again and again and again and again. Is this something more complex? My garage needs a new roof. Do I have the skills? No? Hire someone to do it.” If you can and want to do it yourself, what do you need to have in place to make this endeavor a success? Plan it and do it. The more involved the situation, the more involved the plan and the more resources we may need. Sometimes the help we need is professional help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It amazes me everyday how people will bitch at how bad their life is and not ask for help and often when help is available and offered, it is rejected.
The fourth step is go out and make it happen. You have set a plan, identified the resources you’ll need to be successful and have embarked on activating the plan. Go out and make it happen. A good plan, even the best plan will have faults because we’re human and we cannot think of everything. No worries…go back to the drawing board. No one tells us this is an option and many of us are afraid of failing. So what! You aren’t the first person to fail and you won’t be the last. I hate to burst your bubble but if you believe you are never going to not be successful doing something…it is amazing to me how wrong you are.
I believe it’s the word “failure” that scares us. Many of us were raised to believe that failure which is also known as “not being successful” is a bad thing. We are afraid to fail. So many of us are paralyzed by that fear and we refuse to even try because “what will people think if I’ve failed?” What will people think if you don’t try? What will you think if you don’t try?
There is a simple question I ask myself everyday especially when I am frustrated and am experiencing some difficulty seeing my way out of a problem. The question is “What am I thankful for today?” It may seem like a stupid or ridiculous question but I’ll bet you’ll have a great deal of difficulty identifying what you are grateful or thankful for in your life. I don’t care if what you come up with especially initially sounds cliché. That’s sad. Many of us take our lives for granted. We blame others for the negativity in our lives and then we find ourselves immobilized.”I’m grateful I woke up this morning.” Many people will not wake up today. Celebrate your gratitude for waking up and having the energy to get out of bed and pursue your life.
Life is made up of healthy doses of fear with a little anxiety mixed in for good measure. These aren’t bad things. These are the ingredients which make life a little more spicy and worth living.
I have a hope for everyone. That hope is simple…May you be able to step back from whatever stressors are building in your life and assess the amount of control you have over those life issues. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if that’s what you need and don’t be afraid to fail.
Namaste

Death

It is with hands grasped in gratitude and thoughtfulness for Anthony, Harold, my family, my life and those whose paths my life has crossed which I write.
Last Sunday evening I lay in bed reading from my Kindle. The light of the screen the only light illuminating the room. I put down my Kindle and glanced at my Facebook feed. To my surprise, I was informed of the death of Harold Nichols. Harold was 53 and was murdered in Jamaica. Harold and his wife had lived in Jamaica for approximately 15 years and were missionaries for a local church. Harold and his wife selflessly provided to others what those individuals were unable to provide for themselves.
Tuesday, while sitting at my desk, I heard a ping. I was unable to identify the source until I closed several windows on my computer screen and found a message from a previous coworker. The message informed me of another death. this one a 56 y.o. male with whom I had worked.
Both individuals were quiet and humble and caused those of us who are introspective to examine our place in the world as well as what we offer to the world. This news comes to me just 6.5 days into the start of a new job. I left my last job as a result of the stress which I have felt for the past year and which I was concerned would result in more significant complications
As I was writing this post, a message popped up on my computer indicating the arrival of a new email. I opened the email and found this message forwarded to me from a friend.
Keanu is 50. He posted this photo and this message: “You see these people behind me? They are rushing to work and not paying attention to anything. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to take the time out. Say Hi to someone you see and maybe give a hug to someone who looks like they’re hurting. Help out someone. You have to live every day like it’s your last. The person who was holding you back from your happiness was you. Every day is precious so let’s treat it like that. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so live today!”
Keanu
I am sitting outside on this Mother’s Day, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face the taste of a fine cigar mingling with the smooth taste of a glass of scotch not taking anything for granted. As I grow older I realize with more certainty that another day is not promised to any of us. I have also learned to accept this fact and live my life accordingly. I rise each morning and go for a run. My pace is slower but that matters none to me. What is important is that I have the ability to still run.
Run I will. I will also continue to live each day to the best of my ability not complaining when things do not go my way but accepting what is and changing what I can.
Namaste.

Why do I run?

I greet you with hands clasped in prayer and gratitude.

I was asked this question the other day, “Why do I run?” I am unsure why I chose to write about this topic today as I am asked this question with some frequency. The question is “Why do I run?”

I jotted down some thoughts…It is just after 4:00 am. I was dreaming about a trail run which I had recently completed in the Adirondacks. As I rose and dressed for my run, thoughts, as they often do at this time of day crept in and challenged my belief to stay in bed and get more sleep. I think of a photo of Rob Krar on my wall, his bouts with depression and my need for solitude which helps to contribute to the balanced start of my day.

I know within the first few steps of my morning run that I have what it takes to beat my demons.

I run to be awake. I run as a reminder of what I am capable of achieving. I run for my father who can no longer walk. I run because it is an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and reexamine my passion for the process of change, both in my life and in the life of my clients.I run because it allows me to challenge myself and to give me some modicum of control over the life stressors which I encounter over which I have little or no control.

I run to be a better person, a better father, grandfather and husband. I run because I have the ability to see the world, my world through a different set of eyes, a set of eyes through which I can see the morning sunrise as the rays of light leak through the branches of the nearby trees. I run to stop running; to feel the stillness and the quiet as I sit on my front porch after a run while everyone else remains safely tucked in their beds. I run to enjoy the solitude and quiet which I seem to only be able to achieve after a vigorous run.

I run to think about the people I have in my life, those who I love and those who I can do without. I think about the latter and I say a mantra for them in the hope they may find the same peace I have been able to find. I run for them. I run to release the stress in my life. I run because it reminds me of the importance of humility in my life. I run to remember and to forget. I run because of the order which I find during this time of solitude. I run to feel and experience the emotions which we all feel and too often deny because we are afraid. I run because it’s free and because it allows me to feel free.

Namaste

 

 

 

I am home…again

I write with hands clasped in gratitude and in prayer.

I returned from an all too brief trip to the Adirondacks. There are an equal number of philosophical questions remaining as there were prior to my departure. This quote from Charles Bukowski is cause for my continued reflection. Charles said, “The freeway always reminds you of what most people are. It´s a competitive society. They want you to lose so they can win.” This concept of competitiveness is one which I no longer comprehend. I barely comprehended this concept when I was younger and am unsure that I ever did. Perhaps it is age and the accompanying maturity. Competitiveness is a concept with which I struggle, especially as I grow older. In the four days which I spent in the Adirondacks, I spoke to no more than four people. Two of those “conversations” were to place an order for food so I am unsure if they qualify for the definition of “conversation”.

I arrived on the Rock River trail and breathed a sigh of relief that there were no cars at the trailhead. This meant, at least for the time being that this would be a solitary trail run. As I approached the sign in, a smile formed on my lips as I noticed there were no other signatures indicating hikers or trail runners remaining on the trail. After signing in at the trailhead, I began my trail run on a soft, leaf covered trail. The sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet and the trees bare of leaves, reminded me of Fall. This trail, I am guessing is a seldom used trail. I worked my way over a few rolling hills before descending to a low-land area with Rock Lake on my right.

Rock Lake

I was able to see the lake through the trees which, at this time of year remain naked. The buds on the accompanying branches not yet exposing their secret. Another hundred yards down the trail and I heard the sound of water cascading over large rocks. This would be Rock Creek. I stood in the middle of the footbridge spanning the creek, the sound of the creek louder than I had expected considering the width of the creek was no more than ten feet. I was reminded that everything, especially to me is louder than what would be expected in the Adirondacks. I was also reminded of this fact as I perused the headstones in a cemetery at the entrance to the park. A break in traffic passing the cemetery left me in total silence save for what appeared to be a buzzing in my ears. Perhaps the buzzing was me adjusting from the constant bombardment of noise to the profoundness of the Adirondack silence.

Rock Creek

John Burroughs in “The Art of Seeing Things” said, “If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination,—health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul. To the scientist Nature is a storehouse of facts, laws, processes; to the artist she is a storehouse of pictures; to the poet she is a storehouse of images, fancies, a source of inspiration; to the moralist she is a storehouse of precepts and parables; to all she may be a source of knowledge and joy.”

ADK1

As I made my way back on this 3-mile out and back trail, I decided to branch off onto another trail. This trail was no longer marked by the “hiking” blazes but by red “snowmobile” blazes. This trail was wider and marked by more frequent changes in elevation. It also extended this run from 6 miles to 14.5 miles with an elevation gain of over 1000′.

In his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, John Burroughs shared the following thought, “So far as seeing things is an art, it is the art of keeping your eyes and ears open. The art of nature is all in the direction of concealment. The birds, the animals, all the wild creatures, for the most part try to elude your observation. The art of the bird is to hide her nest; the art of the game you are in quest of is to make itself invisible. The flower seeks to attract the bee and the moth by its color and perfume, because they are of service to it; but I presume it would hide from the excursionists and the picnickers if it could, because they extirpate it. Power of attention and a mind sensitive to outward objects, in these lies the secret of seeing things. Can you bring all your faculties to the front, like a house with many faces at the doors and windows; or do you live retired within yourself, shut up in your own meditations? The thinker puts all the powers of his mind in reflection: the observer puts all the powers of his mind in perception; every faculty is directed outward; the whole mind sees through the eye and hears through the ear. He has an objective turn of mind as opposed to a subjective. A person with the latter turn of mind sees little. If you are occupied with your own thoughts, you may go through a museum of curiosities and observe nothing.”

Path

Little could have been more beautiful this day. Sunlight began to drift through the bare limbs of the many trees. Silence, other than my breathing and footfalls was my musical accompaniment. Grtatitude for my breath. Gratitude for my eyes and my ability to take in such beautiful sights. Gratitude for my ears both to hear the sounds around me as well as to hear the silence in which I find so much solitude.

May you be able to experience such beauty in your life.

Namaste